Lonely Planet Writer

Own your own pub: this Aussie beauty is being given away

Ever wanted to own your own pub? If you’ve got a great idea and the A$100 application fee, you could be the next owner of the Bethrunga Hotel near Cootamundra in the Riverina region of New South Wales.

Hotel Shirley, Bethungra. Image by Hotel Shirley on Facebook

Owners Robyn and Allan Cox want the next chapter in the hotel’s life to benefit the local community and are casting their net wide for great ideas. The 1886 two-storey Victorian building, known as ‘the Shirley’ is a much-loved local feature, popular as a wedding venue, B&B and community hub. The Coxes bought it in 2014 for A$470,000 but now that it’s time to move on they’ve decided they want to pass it on to the person with the best idea for the hotel’s future.  ‘It’s about putting the right person in the building and taking care of the future of the community,’ Robyn Cox told Lonely Planet.

Applications will open soon. Image by Hotel Shirley on Facebook

With a campaign organised over this page on Facebook, they are asking for applications from Australian citizens, accompanied by a $A100 fee, outlining ideas. They will throw in most of the hotel’s furniture, stamp duty and settlement costs to make sure the new owners have an easy start. According to Robyn Cox, the idea has really caught people’s imaginations with a lot of varied ideas coming in. ‘The list is as long as your arm. We get a lot of the usual ideas from the hospitality industry, because the building is designed for the hospitality industry,’ she said. ‘But we’re all getting a lot of dreams coming out because there is no overhead. When you don’t have the expenses you can let your dreams go wild.’

Robyn and Allan Cox are giving away their hotel. Image by Hotel Shirley on Facebook

With 13 bedrooms, and two acres of gardens, there’s plenty of room for great ideas. The town of Bethungra (population 164) is in the South West Slopes region of NSW, about 70km from Wagga Wagga. The Coxes need a minimum of 20,000 people to apply to cover their costs and will refund applicants if this figure is not reached, but so far it’s looking like they will easily reach the target. ‘If it gets really popular I’m going to the local hospital to see what they need,’ said Robyn Cox. ‘If there’s more than enough to cover what we need, we can go to the community and see what they need. We believe if you’ve got enough, you should always give back.’

The application website is still under construction but will likely be up and running at the start of December (a link will be posted on the Facebook page), and applications will be accepted until the end of February. The Coxes want to ensure a fair process and will appoint a ‘neutral party’ to select the winning application.

‘We’re just as excited as everyone else to see who’s going to end up with it,’ said Robyn Cox.